The myth of trickle down justice

If wealthy people win battles to secure their rights, is it likely the benefits will eventually filter down to those without the same clout?

I ask the question because while it’s a given that high earning women at the BBC are entitled to the same rate of pay as men doing similar work, it’s not necessarily going to do very much for their poorly paid counterparts within the media industry.

Similarly if Hollywood cleans up its act and ensures that young stars are not sexually exploited, I suspect it won’t do a lot to prevent the harassment that ordinary women face in the workplace.

Real change comes from the bottom up. It’s the stories of women, without power or influence, who’ve successfully fought discrimination in the workplace, that will encourage and prompt others to follow suit and force managements to mend their ways. Media celebrities won’t prove role models for anyone but themselves.

To be fair social media campaigns like MeToo help to focus attention on an issue. And the involvement of high profile figures helps the process. But ultimately I don’t think the world will change because of a facebook or Twitter storm. In so far as I understand the sociology of this, social media campaigns erupt in an explosion of anger or indignation but only last as long as there are scalps to be won. When the fury has subsided and the caravan has passed on, what lasting value will have been established?

Boringly, it’s serious, low key, unshowy work which delivers fundamental social change. I used not to believe this. As a student in England I went on my fair share of demonstrations even the odd sit in. Chanting slogans and waving placards, we thought we could make a difference. Not a bit of it. Our right to march simply reflected advances won by earlier generations. We didn’t create new freedoms, we simply exploited those already secured.

Union activity at a grassroots level will deliver far more effective results on women’s pay than a campaign to get more female executives on to the boards of FTSE listed companies though it’s the latter that I see getting the media attention.

If already well paid professionals or managers of either sex want to win further advancement, well and good, but it’s a myth that somehow their success has anything much to do with the working lives of everyone else.

Writer on energy, business and politics. Holder of degrees in philosophy and finance which fairly reflects my interests. After forty years in journalism, I want to apply what I’ve seen, heard and read to an analysis of Northern Ireland life.